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The return of Swan Lake: Columbia Classical Ballet hosts a joyous preview night at renovated school

There was an indescribable feeling of delight vibrating through the air of the Pavlovich Dance School this past Sunday evening.  It was seen in the quick, joyful footwork of ballet dancers leaping across the rehearsal room floor, felt through the deeply appreciative grins of the enthusiastic audience, and heard within every excited conversation in the reception.  The reason: Swan Lake is back.

Nations Wilkes-Davis and Sehyun Jin perform Tchaivosky's 'Swan Lake' at the Pavlovich Dance School Sunday night (photo by Allison Willingham).

Nations Wilkes-Davis and Sehyun Jin perform Tchaivosky’s ‘Swan Lake’ at the Pavlovich Dance School Sunday night (photo by Allison Willingham).

Six days a week, the dancers of Columbia Classical Ballet Company gather to practice relentlessly for their October 14 performance of Swan Lake at the Koger Center.   This past Sunday evening, the company previewed several numbers the show at the Pavlovich Dance School in Columbia, named after Radenko Pavlovich, the artistic director of Columbia Classical Ballet.  The evening marked one of the first performances the school has hosted since the flood of October 2015, which nearly demolished the building.

Undeniably, the elation and pride of being able to host the preview night at the recently renovated studio shined in the wide grins and bright faces of every dancer Sunday evening.  The ballerinas and danseurs performed the complex, elegant choreography with graceful fervor, passionate in their motions, beaming large smiles but still fully in control of each moment yielded to the audience.  In one moment of the evening, a large group of dancers shook tambourines and exploded merrily across the rehearsal room while the audience smiled and danced along in their seats; in another number, eventgoers were left in a dazed hush, watching a breathtakingly amorous pas de deux.

Choreographer Simone Cuttino could not have been prouder of the company’s preview night.  “Swan Lake requires the highest the skill of classical ballet,” she explained.  “Particularly the duality of the roles—for example, the dancer must be able to perform as both the white swan and the black swan.  The black swan is dramatic and dangerous, but the white swan is a softer and more romantic performance.”

Swan Lake tells the love story between a cursed princess who has been turned into a swan and the prince who falls in love with her.  On Sunday evening, the ballet company dazzled with the sneak peek of their interpretation of Swan Lake, including the stunning choreography between the lovers, the genuine excitement of the memorable court jester, and the stout athleticism of the talent.  Children in the audience were mesmerized, watching a fairy tale happen right before their eyes, but the adults were perhaps even more moved by the gracefully vigorous dances shown Sunday evening.

Kote Fujishima and Heewon Cho perform 'Diana and Actaeon' by Cesare Pugni at the Columbia Classical Ballet Company's season preview night (photo by Allison Willingham).

Kote Fujishima and Heewon Cho perform ‘Diana and Actaeon’ by Cesare Pugni at the Columbia Classical Ballet Company’s season preview night (photo by Allison Willingham).

The event served not only as a preview for their upcoming performance at the Koger Center, but also as a fundraiser.  The company hosted a silent auction and encouraged eventgoers to sponsor a dancer.  “Most of our dancers are not from Columbia,” Cuttino said.  “We’ve recruited excellent dancers from Poland, Korea, France, Italy, China, Germany, and so many other places.”  Donations help fund the travel expenses to recruit these talents.

Dancer Brianna Taylor also took the opportunity to speak to eventgoers about the company’s Pointe Shoe Fund.  “We are here six days a week rehearsing, and a pair of pointe shoes gives out within a week,” she explained.  The shoes, which allow the dancer to stand at the tips of their toes, can cause injuries if worn past expiration.  A single pair of pointe shoes costs the company about $75, making it one of the most expensive costs for a ballet rehearsal.

The Sunday evening was spell-casting, with the dancers delivering magnificent drama and still maintaining refined technique and poise.  The company impressed all in attendance Sunday evening, including several politicians who advocate for funding for the arts, such as Richland County Councilman Jim Manning.  Former City Councilman Hamilton Osborne also attended the preview night and voiced his support of the company’s efforts.  “The ballet is such an important cultural event for Columbia,” said Osborne. “It’s a wonderful art, very athletic.  For a relatively small city, Columbia has two amazing ballet companies that have both been able to enjoy long term success.  The talent you see here tonight is something you would expect to see in a much bigger city.”

Members of the general public also attended the preview night, including ballet enthusiast Stan Atkins.  “I really enjoy [coming to the ballet],” said Atkins.  “It’s interesting to see how a story develops through dance.  With Swan Lake, the audience already knows the story, so it’s easier to interpret and really get involved with the characters.”

Swan Lake will be performed once this season, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, at the Koger Center.  Tickets are still available at kogercenterforthearts.com.  For those who were unable to attend the preview, Cuttino promises a magnificent show.  “Swan Lake is a show that you have to see at least once in your lifetime,” she said.  “The excellence of the dancers is unmatched.  What we are doing this year is absolutely gorgeous and powerful.”

More information about the Columbia Classical Ballet Company and means to contribute is available at www.columbiaclassicalballet.com.

Featured image: Columbia Classical Ballet Company delivered a stellar, intimate performance at the Pavlovich Dance School Sunday evening (photo by Allison Willingham).

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